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Douc Langurs (Pygathrix spp.) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

Douc Langurs (Pygathrix spp.)

Taxonomy and Nomenclature


  • Names through history
    • E. Geoffroy 1812. Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat., Paris. XIX, 1812 p 90. Genus Pygathrix is created. Simia nemaeus renamed Pygathrix nemaeus
    • A. Milne-Edwards, 1871. Nouv. Archiv. Mus. Hist Nat., Paris, VI p 7. Pygathrix nigripes described as distinct species
    • Napier 1985 Catalogue of primates in the British Museum (Natural History) and elsewhere in the British Isles. Part III: Family Cercopithecidae, Subfamily Colobinae. Synonimizes P. moi (Kloss, 1926) and P. nemaeus nigripes
    • Nadler, Tilo, 1997 Der Zoologische Garten (Neue Folge) 67(4) pp 165-176 Pygathrix nemaeus cinereus described
  • The two subfamilies of Cercopithecidae, the Cercopithecinae and Colobinae have distinctive morphological adaptations related to diet. Colobines have a specialized digestive tract and Cercopithecines have buccal pouches.
  • In the subfamily Colobinae, the colobus monkeys are found in Africa while others are found in Asia
  • From 4-8 genera of Asian colobines are recognized by different primatologists: Pygathrix (doucs), Rhinopithecus (snub-nosed monkeys), Nasalis (proboscis monkey), Simias (simakobu), Trachypithecus (langurs), Presbytis (leaf-monkeys) and Semnopithecus (Hanuman or gray langurs)
  • Three subspecies formerly recognized; elevated to species status.

Nomenclature (Hill 1964) (Gotch 1979)

  • Common name: Douc Langur
  • Pygathrix nemaeus comes from the Greek words "puge" meaning rump or buttocks and "thrix" the term for hair, denoting the long rump hair. "Nemus" is Latin for grove or forest.
  • The Hindi name Langur or Lungoor pertains specifically to the common Sacred Monkey of Bengal, Semnopithecus entellus, but the name now includes more than 35 related species. A better name for this group would be "leaf-eating monkeys"
  • Douc (pronounced "duke") is a French Cochin-china name
  • German name: Kleideraffe or clothes monkey
  • Viet Namese name: Vooc va
  • "nigripes" refers to black shank color, "cinereus" refers to grey shank color

Evolutionary History


  • Mitochondrial analysis by Zhang and Ryder suggest that the African Colobus diverged first among the colobines
  • The fossil record indicates that current colobines probably originated in Africa and then migrated to Asia in the late Miocene
  • Doucs and snub-nosed monkeys are recognized in the Pleistocene fossil record
  • The doucs appear to be more closely related to the proboscis monkey (Nasalis) than to the snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus)
  • The separation of the Pygathrix-Mesopithecus and Nasalis clades probably occurred in northern southeast Asia very soon after the splitting off of the snub-nosed monkeys
  • Pygathrix nemaeus has a diploid number of 2n=44. Generally, the karyotypes of Cercopithecine species tend to be similar to one another.


Kingdom: Animalia - animals

Phylum: Chordata - chordates

Class: Mammalia (Linnaeus, 1758) - mammals

Order: Primates (Linnaeus, 1758) - primates

Family: Cercopithecidae (Gray, 1921) - Old World monkeys

Genus: Pygathrix (É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1812) - douc langurs or doucs

Species: Pygathrix cinerea - gray-shanked douc langur (central Vietnam)
Species: Pygathrix nemaeus - red-shanked douc langur (northern Vietnam, Laos)
Species: Pygathrix nigripes - black-shanked douc langur (southern Vietnam, Cambodia)

Source: Integrated Taxonomic Inventory System (2017)

Descriptive Name

Red-shanked douc langur

The species name of the red-shanked lemus, nemaeus, refers to its forest-dwelling lifestyle.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Ankel-Simons (2000)
Elliot (1913)
Jablonski (1995)
McKenna & Bell (1997)
Nadler (1997)
Whitehead & Jolly (2000)
Zhang & Ryder (1998)

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